This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made at home – I slightly augmented the recipe, of course, but you can find the proper one here. I’ve been meaning to learn how to make a proper curry for ages; by ‘proper’ I mean one that doesn’t involve any jars of paste or sauce, curry powder or even a shop-bought garam masala. I’ve made a few Thai style curries (like this red curry with langoustines) and even a Burmese one, but Indian has eluded me. I’ve made some good attempts, but nothing that really made me feel like I’d hit the mark. Until now, of course – and on the back of this success I bought myself a Madhur Jaffrey book to work through, hopefully I’ll be making Indian food like a pro before too long. Maybe even a pro chef – making curry like a pro poker player wouldn’t necessarily mean any improvement. Depends on the poker player, mind you.
The changes I made to the recipe were as follows… I reduced the amount of chicken – I put in six chicken thighs. I’ve never jointed a bird (or anything else) before and I didn’t really feel like trying it, to be honest. Also, chicken thighs are my favourite part, and this way I didn’t have to fish about in the finished product, trying to make sure I got one. This would be made more difficult by the fact that I have no butchery skills so all the chicken pieces would all resemble something cast aside by a wolverine, rather than any recognisable part of a chicken. I also altered the marinade for the chicken and potatoes by using tandoori masala (alright, so I did ‘cheat’ here, for a given and very strict value of ‘cheat’) in place of cayenne pepper. I used twice as much, too, because it’s a less spicy flavour.
The first step of the recipe asks you to finely chop the onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor. Lacking one, I made a paste of them in my mini-blender. I loved that mini-blender, I used it for something almost every day and when it broke (right in the middle of blending something, prompting a mad dash out to a local shop in too-big boots, which must have been hilarious to watch) I was very sad. I got a stick blender as a temporary replacement, and just after Christmas there I bought myself a shiny Kenwood food processor/blender to fill the gap that was left when my Kitchen Genie went to toaster heaven. I haven’t tried the food processor yet, but I’m very excited about it… I digress. Using a paste made it more difficult to extract the cinnamon stick and green chili and required a bit of scraping them off over the pot. Being down to my last bits of cinnamon and having to use several pieces instead of just one made this particular task all the more enjoyable, as you can imagine. Save yourself the headache by finely chopping the onion, ginger and garlic and always making sure that you have plenty of whole cinnamon sticks, that’s my advice.
My final four changes to the recipe were additions; for one, I added the green chili back into the pot while the sauce simmered, to give more spice without the unwelcome surprise of biting into a particularly hot slice of unexpected chili. I
like chilis, and spicy food, but an unexpected one can have the embarrassing consequences of eye-watering, face-reddening and hitherto unthought of combinations of swear words which might shock your dinner guests. For the last ten minutes of cooking, I also added a couple of blocks of frozen spinach, a generous handful of frozen peas and a can of chickpeas. The chickpeas were there to make up for the missing chicken pieces, and also because I love chickpeas so much that I feel a curry is incomplete without them. The spinach was there for extra nutrition and flavour, but it had the welcome side-effect of reducing the slightly concerning orange colour of the sauce. It really was quite orangey. All natural colours, of course, but still – if you’re going to insist on not using a jar of sauce you’d rather that the end result didn’t look like it had been pumped full of nuclear food dye.
To go with the curry, I boiled some white rice and made some naan bread. I’d made excellent naan bread once before and I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere, which as you can imagine was pretty annoying. I cast around for a substitute recipe and went with this one, though I used ’00’ flour (sometimes called pasta flour) instead of plain, for a more chewy bread. Making these was good fun – my main advice would be not to stretch the dough out very thinly, because the thick, chewy parts are the best. It bubbled up quite pleasingly in the frying pan, and got a few good scorched bits, too. I wish I could remember where I got my last recipe, though – it had potato in it, and it was almost as good as the real deal. Next time perhaps I’ll try and experiment with making my own recipe, it may even be a sourdough naan, since I’m a bit besotted with my sourdough starter at the moment.
Wow, I took a lot of photos of that bread…
I finished the curry off with coriander, as suggested in the recipe, and even made a little hill of rice by lightly packing it into a ramekin before turning it out onto the plate. Not the finest execution of this move but still, it’s the thought that counts… Or is that only in presents?